JUSUN Strike: The Nigerian Constitution And The Manual Of Governance

By Chief Malcolm Emokiniovo Omirhobo .

LAGOS APRIL 17TH (NEWSRANGERS0-Let me start by  stating that I  am one  hundred  and ten percent in  support  of the  financial  independence of the Nigerian judiciary because of its  enormous  importance and significance to the administration of justice ,  the rule of law and our nacesent democracy .  I am also in  full support of  the struggle for  the  actualisation of the  financial independence of the Nigerian judiciary   provided it’s approach   is civil ,  lawful and   constitutional . And for the records , I am in support  of the   extant Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), strike but I vehemently oppose  its modus operandi . 

 The grouse of JUSUN for which it has unlawfully shut down the entire judicial system  since on  the  6th  day of April 2021 is that the State  Governments are  in violation of “Sections 81 (3) and 121 (3) of the Constitution of Nigeria which  grants financial autonomy to Federal and State Judiciaries which  have been   confirmed by the  courts in the following cases:: JUDICIARY STAFF UNION OF NIGERIA VS NATIONAL JUDICIARY COUNCIL & GOVERNORS OF THE 36 STATES IN SUIT NO: FHC/ABJ/CS/667/13; OLISA AGBAKOBA VS FG, THE NJC & NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SUIT NO. FHC/ABJ/CS/63/2013 and OLISA AGBKAOBA VS AG, EKITI STATE & 2 OTHERS SUIT No. NAD/56/2013

Granted that the thirty six State Governors are in  violation of the Constitution. Granted   that they are  also contemptuous of the judgements of the court,  I dare say,   that does not give JUSUN  the licence to violate the constitution and to  defile the sanctity of the courts. It is incongruous for JUSUN. to  

on one hand  profess  to defend the Constitution   and on the other hand flagrantly violate it . 

 I am shocked that the stakeholders of the Nigerian judicial system  have    failed, refused and/or neglected  to tell members of JUSUN that  while striking they do not have the right to obstruct other Nigerian citizens from going about their lawful activities   or violate  their  rights whereas  the  rights of  members of JUSUN   ends where that of other Nigerian citizens begins  . 

I am shocked that the  stakeholders of the Nigerian judicial system  have failed , refused and or neglected  to tell JUSUN that  they are violating the Nigerian constitution  in too many ways but suffice to mention a few herein under  :

1)  many Nigerians whom the constitution presumes to be innocent are today languishing in cells and jails through out Nigeria  because they cannot get bail?  

2)  many Nigerians needs access to the court to ventilate their grievances instead of taking the laws into their hands or resorting to self help .

3) many Nigerians needs access to to the court for the protection of their  lives and properties 

4) many Nigerians needs access  to the courts to make a living 

5)many Nigerians needs access to the court to enforce their fundamental rights 

6) many Nigerians needs access to court to swear affidavit for several reasons like retriving their lost SIM cards , compilation of traveling documents or  for record purposes as a condition to do several things  .

7) many Nigerians needs access to court to challenge the Governments both at the federal and state levels  via public interest litigation 

8) Many Nigerians needs access to the court to process their letters of administration or wills at the various probate registry .

9) the Nigerian police needs access to the court to enforce the law .

10)the judges needs access to the court to administer justice .

The list of why the JASUN must immediately  call off the strike and reopen the courts  is endless but let me just  point out here  that JUSUN must know  that  the Nigerian  Court  is the turf of all Nigerian citizens and not  exclusively  theirs  and therefore they  have no locus to   put  it under lock and key. There   are Nigerians who may want to use the library in the court’s premises , judges who may want to use their chambers  and as flimsy as it may sound Nigerians who  may want to visit the court for excursion  or sight seeing . The stakeholders of the Nigerian judiciary must tell JUSUN  that the disadvantages of their action by far outweighs what ever benefits  it believes it wants to achieve by this  industrial action.

As far as I am concerned  strike defiles law ,  commonsense  and logic because it is  absurd   for JUSUN to shut down the Federal High courts nation wide which has started the implementation  of Financial Autonomy for the Judiciary as  shown by the  superfluous Executive Order 10 of 2020 of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and against the wise counsel and plea of the  Nigerian Bar Association . 

Hitherto,   one of the major factors inhibiting  the execution of the judgment of  the court  for the implementation of the financial independence of the Nigerian judiciary  is the refusal of the Nigerian police which is an agency of the Federal Government  under the control of the president of Nigeria to make her  input  in the execution of the judgement of the  court against the State and Federal Governments  . But now  with the  new Federal Government disposition towards the actualisation of the financial independence of the Nigerian  judiciary this impediment have  been removed  but  I am suprise that JUSUN has refused  to latch onto this opening whereas  the State Governments are now critically exposed to the extent that it is only the State Governors  that have  immunity while  their commissioners of finance , accountant generals and attorney general’s do not  .My thinking here is that JUSUN is  not putting on her  thinking cap and have choose the short cut  of strike which has resulted in  the  punishment of  the entire country for the sins of thirty six thick skinned ,  power drunken rascals. 

It is sad that JUSUN  has refused   to realise that the issue here is a  constitutional one that requires constitutional solution.  The point which JUSUN   is  missing  here and must focus on is how the manual of governance and the Nigerian constitution expects us  to handle a governor who is in breach of the constitution  and who is also  contemptuous of the order or judgement of a court  bearing in mind his status of immunity  within the confines of the law ? 

The  earlier JUSUN  understands that  the grant of  immunity of office  to the State  governors from  civil or  criminal proceedings  and arrest or imprisonment through out the tenure of their office is constitutional as per the provisions of  section 308 of the Nigerian constitution and that  the  only anti dote to the abuse of immunity of  office  by a governor is another constitutional means called impeachment as per the provisions of the section 188 of the Nigerian constitution .

The issue of judicial autonomy should be the concern of every well meaning Nigeria citizen .  Starting with the  judges, lawyers and members of the public . 

The judges  must be upright and up and doing . They must stop indulging the executive and their agencies . They must make the right pronouncements  without fear or favour when it matters and at the right time so  that they can earn their respect from the other arms  of government . Let Nigerians read ,  see or  hear  that a court of law has cited the minister or  commissioner of finance, the Accountant General or  the Attorney General either at the State or Federal level for contempt of court .  Does the names Kutugi, Obaseki, Uwaifo,  Ovie Whisky , Odigbe , Kayode Esho , Oguntade, Oputa, Pat Acholonu, Karibi White, Niki Tobi, etc  ring a bell ? These were great men of the Nigerian  judiciary that stood tall during the Military era in Nigeria . Please do well to read their judgements . They were the ones that made Gani Fawehinmi  of blessed memory shine like a million stars . Their sound judgement on public interest litigation  helpedb  develop our jurisprudence and  embroaden  our liberty which we  enjoy today.  Our present  judges  must give preference to public interest cases , they must stop dodging or shying away from them  or deliberately allowing them to be   overtaken by events  

and thereby rendering  them nugatory or  academic exercise . 

As for the Nigerian lawyers ,  we must contribute our own quota in the struggle for the actualisation of the financial  autonomy of the Nigerian judiciary by defending the Nigerian constitution at the slightest breach by  other organs of government,  all levels of governments and their agencies . As lawyers we must stop being selfish and self centered pursuing our briefs and the Rank of SAN without giving  some of our  time and energy to our society .As learned minds ,  we must at all times endeavour to educate the public on  the dictates of the constitution and governance .

On the part of the Nigerian public with whom the ultimate power resides  in but have failed , refused and or neglected  to exercise it  , I say they must avoid short cut and cosmetic approach to things . They must at all times be prepared to persevere and go through the due process of law . In the extant JUSUN strike , JUSUN is suppose to  enlightened members of the public  through series of write ups , seminars , webinars , symposiums so that the public can  be well informed and  organised to stage protests and strikes at their various State Government Houses and State House of Assemblies , lobby their representatives and in the worst case scenario demand their  representatives at the pain of recall to impeach their governors for  breach of the constitution and disregard for  the rule of law and the  administration of justice .

Sure , JUSUN have the right to pursue a policy of financial Independence of the courts guaranteed by the constitution and affirmed by three decisions of superior courts of Nigeria as opined by my learned senior Olisa Agbkoba SAN  but I dare say that JUSUN do not have the right or mandate of Nigerians to shut down the entire Nigerian judicial system  .

My opinion may  be unpopular  but I have no regrets  and to tell.you what  even though JUSUN succeeds with this approach my position will no change as long as it is outside the confines of the constitution  and manuals of governance .

Chief Malcolm Omirhobo, a Lagos based lawyer and activist writes from Lagos

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Posted by on Apr 17 2021. Filed under Features, National. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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